Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Pros: Robust action-card hybrid battle system; fantastic production values
Cons: Randomized dungeons and battles can be repetitive
Kingdom Hearts is the result of one of the most bizarre corporate hook-ups ever and is phenomenally successful to boot. Setting the stage for this year’s highly-anticipated Kingdom Hearts 2, Square’s crossover fan-fiction opus continues with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
Disney of Doom
Welcome to Castle Oblivion, a mysterious keep set in the swirling depths of your darkest memories. Sora, Donald, and Goofy end up in the mysterious castle courtesy of the leather hoodie-clad “Organization,” and must battle through slightly remixed memories of the first game to uncover the truth behind Castle Oblivion.
Being a modern-day Japanese Game Boy game, of course everything in Chain of Memories revolves around cards. As Sora wanders through ever-changing interior of Castle Oblivion, he’ll even use cards to create the rooms behind the innumerable doors he encounters, adding random dungeons to the mix. Of course the card-centric elements extend to battles as well, where all actions are card-driven, from standard attacks to summoning Goofy.
Compared to most card games, there aren’t that many cards to collect, but you can do a lot with them. Each is ranked from zero to nine, and you can build any deck you can dream up as long as you have enough card points. Using a card in battle discards the card and it can be reloaded, but reloading takes time, so using your cards strategically is a must. Enemy attacks are also represented by cards; with higher value attacks interrupting lower value ones.
The real strategy comes with the use of card combos. The player can combine any three cards into a single attack, some of which form powerful special attacks called sleights. There are numerous other wrinkles to the rules, and the end result is surprisingly solid and fun. And that’s good, because you’ll be doing a lot of fighting.
New 2D Digs
Another given is that Chain of Memories is well-made. And honestly, it’s one of the best-looking GBA games out there. The sound is good as well, making ample use of voice samples and sporting nice remixes of the original game’s music. Chain of Memories also is the first game to use full-motion video on the GBA: there isn’t much of it, but it looks pretty good.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories combines two much-maligned RPG staples, random dungeons and card battles, and somehow pulls it off with aplomb. This is a great little action/RPG, and well-suited to portable play. If you didn’t like the original Kingdom Hearts, you probably won’t care much for Chain of Memories, but fans of the original or card battle games should give it a go.